Author Archive

Digital Regulation Points of View

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Creativity and cultural diversity are Europe’s best cards

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Three questions to Börje Hansson, co-founder of independent film production company Bright Pictures

1. What would be the impact on the film producers of current EU-policy proposals on territorial licensing?

We are very worried that our ability to agree territorial licensing to raise capital to produce films and TV content will be compromised to a degree where we simply cannot fund the budgets to match our creative ambitions. We also stand to lose the focused local marketing exclusive distributors undertake in foreign markets – creating a local audience for our films and TV content. The various efforts from EU institutions to erode territorial exclusivity would tear down the very business model of the European film industry – but territorial exclusivity is the commercial reality of film industries across the world.

EU institutions should recognize that cultural and creative diversity, jobs in the film and TV sectors and sustainable businesses are important political goals which should not be compromised

By proposing to limit our ability to work with territorial exclusivity in the European Union, the European film industry is then placed as a competitive disadvantage while territorial exclusivity can be deployed elsewhere in the world.

2. What would you like to see instead?

EU institutions should recognize that cultural and creative diversity, jobs in the film and TV sectors and sustainable businesses are important political goals which should not be compromised by trying to address unsubstantiated demand for cross-border access. That is why I and several of my European producer and distributor colleagues have written to the EU institutions to remind them of their responsibilities both to our sector and to our audiences.

3. Don’t you agree that Europe needs a digital single market to be globally competitive?

Creativity and cultural diversity are Europe’s best cards in a global market place. A good story well told is the key ingredient for success and we work hard every day with our creative partners to deliver that to our audiences.

The Turtle and the Unicorn: A Silicon Valley Fable

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Welcome to the New World* is the title of an essay by Mathilde Ramadier, telling the story of how she survived the “coolitude” of startups in Berlin’s version of Silicon Valley. Netopia asked for more.

Netopia: You have interesting thoughts about Silicon Valley’s language. There is a lot of “fantasy”, you say, behind the words associated with start-ups and the Silicon Valley. You talk about “heroism”, “new world”, “imagination”… Why don’t you like “unicorns”? Everybody likes unicorns…

MR: I like unicorns! As long as we are talking about them in the context of art history or pure imagination. Don’t you think it’s ironic that we use a chimera which never existed (and probably never will) to describe a real socioeconomic phenomenon? Isn’t it symptomatic for our world which is so deeply concerned with crisis? Besides, as we all know, a fantasy has to remain a fantasy because it belongs to the unconscious and it isn’t necessarily desirable for a fantasy to suddenly become reality.

I think it is problematic and dangerous that unicorns became a symbol for the kind of success that everybody pursues in the startup-sphere, a kind of Holy Grail that tends to be the only approved and acclaimed model of success: to get a Billion-dollar valuation. To achieve this extremely difficult goal—I don’t say it’s easy to build a startup—people need to believe in a mythology which includes their entire being. Therefore, they are convinced they have a mission to fulfill, they have to be the “hero” of an “adventure” they “share” with a “family” to “change the society” and “make the world a better place”… But how many startups have really made the world a better place than maybe a few isolated branches of society?

Netopia: For all the talk of “changing the world”, “free services”, “collaborative economy” and so on, how come Silicon Valley is so obsessed with money: seed rounds, equity, venture capital etc? Which is the more important driving force?

MR: I think that the conscious, official driving force is the strong pious willingness to change the world by disrupting a sector. Then you can be part of history, we can say there was a “before you” and an “after you”, which is flattering of course. But honestly, I think it is closely related to a more unconscious desire, which is the very basic equation: money = power.

Startuppers pretend to operate a revolution, but their desires are the very same as those of their predecessors.

Startuppers pretend to be game-changers, to operate a revolution, a radical break with the old corporate world, but their desires are the very same as those of their predecessors. Nobody wants to create a business which will stay poor and make no money… But look at the richest CEOs in the Silicon Valley. OK, their image is no longer that of vulgar Ferraris, but of smart hybrid ecofriendly cars. OK, they don’t wear ostentatious trendy clothes but hoodies, t-shirts and sneakers because they are cool and “humble”. But this is only because the symbols have been displaced within this new mythology. We read more and more stories of ridiculous paranoid behaviors and egotistical plans of CEOs who are for example buying up huge pieces of land in New Zealand with an airstrip for their private jets, or high-tech bunkers to hide in once the apocalypse has arrived. It is worth noting that these are the same people who pretend to be shaping a better future!

Netopia: You think that countries – such as yours; France – shouldn’t dream about becoming a “start-up nation” reflecting GAFA’s model. What else could it be? Do you feel that its potential could rely elsewhere?

MR: I consider both France and Germany as my countries: being French and living in Berlin makes me feel attached to both countries. However, the situation is quite different in the two countries. Berlin was faster than Paris in becoming a famous and attractive startup scene because of a lot of factors: liberal, more attractive to young people, more international, more multilingual, cheap and qualified workforce, lower real estate value, better tax rates for entrepreneurs, better life quality and unicorns lurking around every corner… But jokes apart, the phenomenon and the mythology I am talking about in my book is now global and concerns every western capital city or country which aspires to become a startup nation. It simply renewed the old American dream as a version 2.0 of capitalism.

I am not against startups as such. I believe in the digital age, I use the Internet and new technologies and I think we need innovation. But is innovation really defined as just another startup delivering meals at home, abusing poor guys biking around on their own bicycles? What will be the next fancy app, offering something nobody actually needs and using the availability and frailty of a new proletariat—whom one still does not dare to name so? If disruption is only possible at the price of ignoring and disrespecting all the achievements to protect workers which society has fought for so hard since the beginning of industrial age, then I would not call it disruption but rather regression!

I argue in favor of more maturity, retreat and reflection on these issues, rather than blindly following a model that already shows its obvious flaws. Some specialists talk about a startup bubble. I think that it is not just an economic bubble, there is also a social bubble that needs to blow up soon.

Netopia: A last one maybe… You want more “humility, maturity and respect” in the collaborative economy and less “smileys, care bears and unicorns”. Just as a bit of mischief: if you had to choose one emoji to address Silicon Valley… Which one would it be?  

MR: Whereas Silicon Valley would probably like to see the unicorn emoji, I would rather send them the turtle.




Personally, I prefer animals that are more modest, realistic and basically more alive than unicorns. The turtle and the elephant are my favorite totem pets. They are wise, slow and we know that in the end, they live the longest and cross the finish line before the rabbit, as the fable tells us…

* Netopia’s translation

COVER - Bienvenue dans le nouveau monde


You can buy Bienvenue Dans Le Nouveau Monde, Comment J’ai Survécu à La Coolitude Des Start-ups. Mathilde Ramadier here.




The Role of Intellectual Property in Europe’s Knowledge Economy

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

In autumn, Netopia launched its report Immaterial Value Creation in Europe by Dr. Nima Sanandaji at the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the EU in Brussels.

In the video posted by Ideas Matter, Dr. Nima Sanandaji introduces the findings of his report and explains what role IPR should play in Europe’s knowledge economy.

Watch the interview below:


Why Digital Commissioner Ansip is Wrong about VPN Use?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

To view this Why Digital Commissioner Ansip is Wrong about VPN Use? infographic in full size, click here to enlarge

Report: Immaterial Value Creation in Europe

Friday, October 14th, 2016

On October 12 2016, Netopia launched its report Immaterial Value Creation in Europe by Dr. Nima Sanandaji at the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the EU in Brussels.

Immaterial value creation plays a key role in what is commonly referred to as the knowledge intensive economy. Intellectual property rights (IPR) – such as patents, design rights, trademarks and copyrights – are used to protect the intellectual property that results from immaterial value creation.

While nearly all businesses rely on IPR to some extent, some are intensely reliant on this form of protection. This study examines the European Union business sectors, to determine the share of economic value created and the share of jobs that exist in IPR-intensive businesses. The survey is based on data for 2011, 2012 and 2013. It covers the most detailed information available for the European Union business sector, collected from the Eurostat database.

The share of IPR-intensive business activity is high across the Union

The key finding is that 40 per cent of employment in the European business sector and 51 per cent of value created in the sector occurs in IPR-intensive businesses.

All business activity in publishing, film, music and software are classified as IPR-intensive. The reason is that the value produced mainly has the form of digital content, protected by copyright. The majority of value added in a number of other sectors is also IPR-intensive. This includes ICT, manufacturing, professional services, real estate and trade. Utilities as well as accommodation and food services on the other hand have negligible shares of IPR-intensive businesses. Although differences exist among European Union member states, the share of IPR-intensive business activity is high across the Union.

Besides the direct effect on job creation it is likely that, as pointed out by an American study, IPR-intensive businesses also indirectly stimulate job creation in the rest of the economy. This is in line with the observation that knowledge-intensive businesses are the driver for job growth in modern economies.

Download the full report in English here.

The launch event here.

Per Strömbäck
Editor Netopia

Event: Cultural and Creative Industries – Jobs, Growth & Europe’s Digital Future, Oct 12

Friday, September 30th, 2016

On October 12, Netopia, Creativity Works!, the Cultural & Creative Industries Intergroup, creators and their business partners from around Europe gathered at the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the EU to debate the next evolutions of Europe’s cultural and creative industries in an ever-changing digital landscape.

During this event moderated by Per Strömbäck, Netopia introduced its new report Immaterial Value Creation in Europe by Dr. Nima Sanandaji, President of the European Center for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform.

Panelists looked at the role of copyright in the digital age, how the sectors’ business models might evolve, and the challenges and opportunities of the digital age for multicultural and local content production in Europe.


Per Strömbäck
Editor of Netopia

Barbara Schretter
Director, Representation of the Free State of Bavaria

Christian Ehler
Member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the Cultural & Creative Industries Intergroup

Pervenche Berès
Member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the Cultural & Creative Industries Intergroup

Silvia Costa
Member of the European Parliament, Chair of the CULT Committee, European Parliament

Angelika Niebler
Member of the European Parliament

Virginie Rozière
Member of the European Parliament

Eva Kaili
Member of the European Parliament

Pauline Rouch
Cabinet of President Juncker, DSM advisor

Antti Peltomäki
European Commission, DG GROW, Deputy Director General

Lucia Recaldi
European Commission, DG EAC, Head of the MEDIA Unit

Dr. Nima Sanandaji
President of the European Center for Entrepreneurship and Policy Reform

Anthony Level
Digital Chief Policy Officer, TF1

Carlos Falcó
Chairman of Círculo Fortuny

Christian Schumacher-Gebler
CEO of Bonnier Media Deutschland

Reinher Karl
Copyright and Media Lawyer

Javier Mendez Zori
Head of Content Production, MEDIAPRO Group

Annabella Coldrick
Chief executive, Music Managers’ Forum

Dan Maag
Founder, Pantaflix

Nick Yapp
President of the European Writers’ Council

Johannes Sevket Gözalan
Founder and CEO of European Games Group AG

Dr. Ildikó Török
Business Development Director at MOZAIK Education

Jan Orthey
incoming Chairman of Retail Committee, German Booksellers Association

Tomas Speight
Chief Executive Officer, Panther Media

Stephan Hutter
Managing Director and Director Distribution, Prokino.

Casten Almqvist
CEO of Bonnier Broadcasting

Florent Saillot
Head of Digital, Madrigall (Gallimard-Flammarion)

Tobias Schmid
Executive Vice President Governmental Affairs, RTL Group

Nina George

Kees Van Weijen
Managing Partner at PIAS Rough Trade distribution Benelux, Chairman, IMPALA


Event: 21 Digital Myths, Reality Distortion Antidote, Jul 11

Monday, July 11th, 2016

On July 11th 2016, Netopia launched its new book on 21 Digital Myths, Reality Distortion Antidote, which took place at Place de Londres Café in Brussels.

Digital technology offers countless opportunities, driving change in an unstoppable wave of innovation. Technocentrism, this belief that in today’s society technology is a force unto itself, is pervasive. But, it takes technology out of context, forgetting that it is invented, used and discarded by humans – it is for us to decide whether and how we want to harness it. This is the basis of a new book by Per Strömbäck, Editor of Netopia.

During the event, Andrew Keen and Per Strömbäck discussed the findings of the this new book debunking some of the most common myths in the digital world.


Netopia - Andrew KeenAndrew Keen
British-American entrepreneur and author
Author of Cult of the Amateur, Digital Vertigo & The Internet Is Not The Answer


Per StrömbäckPer Strömbäck
Editor of Netopia
Author of 21 Digital Myths



21 Digital Myths seeks to act as an antidote to a series of common fictions and distortions of reality such as:


> #1 Information Wants to Be Free
> #2 You Can’t Stop New Technology
> #3 Digitalization is a Force of Nature
> #4 Keep the Internet Open
> #5 Internet Providers Are Like the Post Office
> #6 Automation Kills More Jobs than it Creates
> #7 Freedom of Data as Freedom of Expression
> #8 Disruption through Technology
> #9 Competition is Only One Click Away
> #10 Europe Has Failed to Create Successful Digital Companies
> #11 Permission-less Innovation Made the Internet Great
> #12 Privacy Through Anonymity
> #13 Open is Always Better
> #14 Internet Brings Democracy
> #15 The Myth of Network Neutrality
> #16 The Myth of the Business Model
> #17 Society Can’t Keep up with Technology
> #18 The Internet Will Save News
> #19 The Myth of Freedom of Speech
> #20 It’s About the User Experience
> #21 Copyright Stands in the Way of Digital Revolution

















Book: 21 Digital Myths, Reality Distortion Antidote

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

On 11 July 2016, Netopia launched its book 21 Digital Myths, Reality Distortion Antidote at the Place de Londres Café in Brussels.

If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone who seemed to have all the answers about digital technology, and who, with a smirk on their face explained how they understand digital so much better than you so your opinions don’t really count, or if you have the feeling something is not right, but you can’t really put your finger on it: this book is for you.

Digital technology offers many opportunities, but none of them are inevitable; they are options for us to use. On the scrap pile of history are tons of useless technologies that never made it because we didn’t like them or because they had no use, sometimes unfairly, like the airship, Hindenburg, that set such a bad example for Zeppelins in general but which are perfectly safe when filled with helium, not hydrogen, and sometimes justly, like the autogyro – a cross-breed of airplane and helicopter that had no practical function. Some technologies can be used for good or evil depending on how we choose to use it: splitting the atom in a bomb or for power; powder in guns or fireworks.

The word myth is useful as a tool to identify and see through some of the self-interested claims that masquerade as technological inevitabilities or benefits for the human race

And technology is inspired by art: without William Gibson’s Neuromancer the Internet as we know it would have been something different. Arthur C. Clarke described communication satellites in the 1930s, long before the first launch into space. The idea that technology drives change is often called ‘technocentrism’. It takes technology out of context, sees it as a force unto itself. Only based on that idea can a book title, like Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants, make any sense. Technology is invented by humans, used by humans, discarded by humans. It is what we want to do with it, how it helps our lives and societies that determines which technologies fail or make history. These points are obvious, almost moot. And yet we often find ourselves in conversations like these, where technology is disconnected from humans as if it’s something you are expected to ‘understand’. This would be harmless if it weren’t for the fact that behind technocentrism lie powerful interests that want to harvest our data, share income between fewer and fewer people, disconnect from legal authority and democratic procedure and disrupt our economies.

But the real problem is that we seem to accept the hype of technocentrism – despite many critical voices – and the idea that digital is a value in itself, a yardstick to decide which country is ahead in the competition, a template for reform embraced by policy-makers. We think it’s a favour to us. If technocentrism were only an idea in the minds of some quirky inventors with propeller hats, that would just be cute, but today it is the modus operandi for the world’s highest valued companies. If you see a risk in that: this book is for you.

The word myth is useful as a tool to identify and see through some of the self-interested claims that masquerade as technological inevitabilities or benefits for the human race. I have 21 myths that I come across often, but this list is by no means complete. Neither is 21 the absolute number of myths, but just one possible collection; feel free to add your own. You can read this book from cover to cover, or use for reference when the digital myth alarm starts to sound in the back of your head. I hope that I can offer some new ideas, cases and arguments to help you call digital’s bluff. And yes, you can love digital gadgets and be open-minded about technology without being a technocentrist. Or a Luddite, for that matter.

Purchase the full book here

Read each individual myth here.

Watch the replay of the book launch event here.



What Airports and Military Research Can Teach Us about the Future of the Internet

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Book Review: Splinternet. How Geopolitics and Commerce are Fragmenting the World Wide Web (OR Books, editor. 2016)

Scott Malcomson’s recent book Splinternet. How Geopolitics and Commerce are Fragmenting the World Wide Web is a great piece of contemporary history. Its aim is nothing less than to tell the story of the Internet – giving credit both to technology and politics, eccentric individuals and the anarchic cyberspace counter-culture of the 1980s.

Byproduct of military R&D

It doesn’t really come as a surprise, but it’s still amazing to read to what extent the Internet is, historically speaking, really nothing more than a mere byproduct of military R&D. Up to the very last steps within the process of technological evolution, every single improvement was made not with a great vision in mind, but just with the aim to meet immediate and basic needs. In Malcomson’s version of the Internet’s history, it all begins with the invention of early forms of Artificial Intelligence: computing devices which take over the work formerly performed by human ‘computers’ – people doing the math necessary for the employment of naval gunnery in the 1920s. The speed of the attacking and the target ship, the pitch and roll of the firing ship, distance to target and the speed and arc of the shell – all this had to be taken into consideration for fire control. Before the arrival of modern computing technology, firing tables were used to handle naval guns. Scientists like Claude Shannon, Vannevar Bush, George Stibitz, Norbert Wiener and many others joined forces with the military to construct first digital fire control, then anti-aircraft-systems. When, in the last days of World War II, the Nazis started their final aerial offensive on Britain, it was ‘the computer’ which prevented the destruction of the city of London by German V-1 rockets.

The Network

The second stage in the evolution of the Internet comes with the establishment of networks. At that time, in the early 1960s, gun technology had already been more elaborate. Instead of fire control on ships, the military was dealing with situations of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). In order to upheld military power even after an attack by thermonuclear weapons, stable communication systems were needed. Networks, which allow for the transmission of signals over a great variety of different routes, were the solution for this problem. The ARPANET was born – which laid ground for our Internet.


Connecting the historical account of the World Wide Web with the recent debate about splintering is somewhat problematic.

All this is history – most of it: military history. Malcomson could as well have given his book the title The Internet. A Military History. Instead, he chose Splinternet. How Geopolitics and Commerce are Fragmenting the World Wide Web. Splintering (or fragmentation) stands for the division of the Internet (or, more narrowly, that part of the Internet which one accesses through Firefox or Chrome, which is the World Wide Web) into different compartments or “walled gardens” which are not well connected to each other. One contemporary case for splintering is censorship by nation states. At the recent World Internet Conference in Zhejiang, the Chinese president Xi Jinping claimed that countries should have the right to choose how to develop and regulate ‘their’ Internet – meaning the right to regulate what information is made available to the citizens. As it is well known, China is being heavily criticized for blocking major sites and censoring posts.

Splintering can also be the effect of interventions made for commercial reasons. The “filter bubble” (which stands for information shaped by personalized Internet-search and like-minded social media-communities) can be interpreted as one form of splintering. Operating systems, apps and online-platforms which exert control over the content delivered to the user are other examples.

There is no historical imperative!

Here comes the critique. If Malcomson would have chosen as a title “How the World Wide Web came into Existence as an Unintended Byproduct of Military Research” or “How the World Wide Web has never been a Universally Open Playground in the First Place” everything would be fine. But connecting the historical account with the recent debate about splintering is somewhat problematic.

First of all, it does not become clear what history has, after all, to offer when dealing with splintering. What’s the lesson? If there is one thing which the study of the past can teach, it is that there is no inbuilt teleology in the historical process. Things could have evolved in a very different way than they did! The Internet is a product of the military-academic-industrial complex? Be it so! This doesn’t tell anything about the way to go for the future. Just as there is no “technological imperative” (see Netopia-post “You can’t stop new ideology, there is no such thing as a “historical imperative”. (And, indeed: Contemporary issues on net neutrality or intermediary liability, which are the arenas where splintering is being debated today, are not even mentioned in the book. The reason for this might well be that the historical account just doesn’t offer many possibilities to connect with these issues.)

Fragmentation – really bad?

If one decides to follow the author in searching the roots for the current fragmentation of the Internet in its historical origin, one soon discovers that one question is totally missing: What’s bad about splintering? Everyone seems to agree that Internet-censorship by rather authoritarian governments such as China or Russia is not a good thing. But what about censorship against hatespeech in Germany? Opinions on this are controversial (see Netopia-post on the debate on Facebook-regulation in Germany). When Clyde Wayne Crews from the Cato Institute coined the term “splinternet” in 2001, he was rather enthusiastic about the idea to build a variety of separate networks. In his view, “splintering” is the way to go in order to escape regulation by the government: “’Splinternets’ where prespecified ground rules regarding privacy and other governance issues replace regulation and central planning may be superior” he writes.

The end of the free and open Internet – does it happen, indeed?

One last remark. In 1996, at the World Economic Forum, John Perry Barlow dashed off his famous declaration of cyber-independence, starting with the words:

“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone… You have no sovereignty where we gather…”

Malcomson cites Barlow’s Manifesto in order to give his reader a glimpse at the short period of time, where indeed cyber-counterculture was ruling the Internet – a period, which in his view, has wrongly coined our view about was the Internet is about. (See here if you are interested in what Barlow thinks about his manifesto today). Surely: Government is back into the game. In some aspects, government authorities are responsible for “splintering” (such as in the cases of China or Germany). But, again: Should one be worried if the “governments of the industrial world” engage in setting rules for the Internet? In many cases, democratic governments are the only actors who can set limits to the way Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are shaping the Internet according to their commercial interest.

In his book, Malcomson describes the internet as a “global private marketplace built on a government platform, not unlike the global airport system”. He intends this to be a description of the historical situation. The point he misses (and which becomes almost invisible by framing the story in terms of “splintering”) is to discuss to what extent the airport-metaphor could indeed by a positive vision for the present: the Internet as a government-supported and government-ruled platform, where both liberties and constraints are defined by constitutional frames and democratic decision-making. Surely: this is not in line with the military past of the Internet. But, again: Who says that we can’t depart from the way history has prepared?”